43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Resolve Conflict Quickly with The Four Agreements

cover of 'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements
by Don Miguel Ruiz

I dread conflict. In fact, when I know a confrontation is imminent, it's all I can think about. I mull it over when I could be labeling file folders, I ponder it while my inbox burgeons, while my 3x5 cards gather dust. Conflict is my productivity disaster.

Fortunately, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz gave me a few significant tools for moving past conflict in any arena. The book is about four habits you can adopt that improve your life in general, but I find it especially helpful when I'm anxious about a tough meeting, phone call, email exchange, or personal conversation. Before I head into the lion's den, I review the agreements to put myself in the right frame of mind:

1. Be impeccable with your word.

Words have immeasurable power, so use them with care. Say only what you mean, and remember your opinion isn't fact. Silence is better than saying something you'll regret.

2. Don't take anything personally.

Here I'll quote the book, "Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves." That guy honking at you just spilled scalding coffee all over his lap, the boss screaming at you is going through a divorce. Their stuff has nothing to do with your stuff, and assuming you're the root cause of someone's behavior is not only self-centered, it's also a big waste of energy.

3. Don't make assumptions.

You can spend hours generating theories about why someone did something, or you can just ask. When someone lashes or does something unexpected, save time by seeking clarification.

4. Do your best.

Do the best you can with the conflict in front of you, and you won't need to waste brain power on self-judgements or regrets.

When I can keep these guidelines in mind, I'm almost always able to diffuse a situation. Other benefits:

  • Resolution comes more quickly because you ask for clarification instead of jumping to conclusions.
  • You reduce time lost to stress because you don't feel personally responsible for the other person's anxiety or anger.
  • Initial conflict often turns into a productive conversation and leads to a deeper relationship, because you come from a more compassionate place.
  • You ideally come away without regrets, having resolved the situation instead of escalating it.

That said, I highly recommend that you read the whole book. It's short and packed with information that will make you not only more efficient, but also generally superior in every way.

About MargaretMason

MargaretMason's picture


Margaret Mason is author of No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. She publishes the shopping blogs Mighty Junior and Mighty Goods, which was one of Time Magazine's Top 50 Cool Sites of the Year. Her personal site Mighty Girl has been awesome since 2000.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »